Auto-Biography: DougD and the Blue Beetle

As I’ve mentioned before, recent events have given me cause to dive into the vaults of old family photos. This one was a bit of a surprise for me, perhaps I’ve always been destined to own a blue 1963 Volkswagen.

These are from my Dad’s Kodachrome slides of our 1971 trip to Nova Scotia, Canada. To recap, my two adventurous aunts were living in Sheet Harbour, NS and our family took the train out to Halifax for a visit. Because we brought no vehicle of our own the four of us were shuttled around in my aunts’ little cars.


And here I am with them.  There’s the blue beetle of course, the red car was an Isuzu Bellett, an extremely rare import in Canada.  I remember this scene well, I was washing the Bellett (or what part that I could reach, anyway) and it looked so nice and shiny when the paint was wet but it dried dull.  I kept wetting the car again and again, trying to keep it shiny.

At this age I was obsessed with Volkswagens.  Even before I could talk I would point excitedly at them.


My little blue VW dinky toy got lots of play time as well.  After bedtime my parents would know that I’d fallen asleep when my hand relaxed and the toy beetle would slide out and hit the floor.


Here I am with the two cars again.  This is definitely taken at the Halifax Citadel with downtown in the background.  This was the surprising photo for me, the VW has the 1959-1963 T-handle decklid with small license light housing.  Just like my 1963 VW should have (but doesn’t).

I would sometimes ride around in this car jammed into the luggage compartment behind the rear seat. Memory is a funny thing, I’m not sure if I actually remember it or I just think I do because I’ve been told that.


After some searching I was able to place this shot.  The VW is on East River Road in front of Ruth Falls Hydro Station.  This scene is exactly the same in 2019 as it was in 1971, maybe in two years I should trailer my VW out to Nova Scotia and recreate the photo 50 years later.


This is my sister and I with our aunt Susanne, who owned the VW and was 31 years old at the time.  We were very close to her, although our grandparent experience was not ideal growing up, we did make up for that by having several special aunts and uncles.

I’m not sure what happened to that VW, there is a story that my Aunt got hit from behind, and found herself in the rear compartment because the seat back collapsed.   At any rate in the 70’s she had a VW Rabbit.  It must have been a very early model because it was Rallye Green and did not have fuel injection.  The last time I saw that car was when I visited my uncle Peter in Calgary during 1989; he had been driving his sister’s old Rabbit and it had recently expired.


Sadly my aunt did not outlive her last VW by very long, she died of cancer in 1990.  I’m older now than she was then, which feels awfully strange.

What doesn’t feel strange is being behind the wheel of my VW.  I finally graduated from the rear storage compartment to the drivers seat in 2006.  I’ve got 40-ish horsepower to propel me and memories of dear aunts to bring along.


My daughter is 16, and recently got her learners permit.  She has expressed interest in learning how to drive standard, so I think we can continue the tradition of adventurous young ladies driving blue beetles in our family.